Osteopathy is a form of manual treatment for aches and pains. This means we use our hands to help you feel better. To do this we are looking at how your body is functioning. There might be a joint which isn’t moving as it should, or a muscle that is too tight or too loose. We then work using our hands to normalise those movements.
There Are Lots of Different Treatment Styles Osteopaths Can Use
Some osteopaths use massage, manipulation, or stretching techniques. These approaches are called direct techniques because they take your body in the direction it’s not moving well and encourage it to go further into that motion. As this happens the nervous system (your brain) notices that something is different and resets the neural output to that muscle or joint.
Some osteopaths use myofascial release, counterstrain and cranial – called indirect techniques. This gentle osteopathy is a very comfortable and passive means of regaining motion and efficient function to decrease pain and normalize movement after an injury.
Osteopaths sometimes use only one approach, or may use a combination of techniques during treatment. At our clinic we only use the indirect technique cranial osteopathy.
Osteopaths Approach Our Treatment From 4 Core Principles
All osteopaths are taught these four core principles or philosophies of osteopathy at university. Osteopaths we have a large range of techniques and approaches to choose from. Osteopaths may gravitate to techniques that we are individually suited to using, but our principles are what separate us from other manual therapies such as chiropractic and physiotherapy.
The Four Core Principles Are:
The Body is a Unit
Each part of the body is effected by and can effect other parts. Our bodies always work to keep our eye and ears level, so if there is something lower down which is causing asymmetrical posture, then the body will tighten other muscles to allow the head stop stay level. For example if you have a sprained ankle, you will walk differently.
This may cause further strain in the other leg from extra weight bearing, some strain through the lower back and pelvis due to weight distribution. These strains can affect the body all the way up to the head. From a treatment perspective this means your osteopath will always be interested in making sure areas that are far away from your main site of pain are also functioning well.
The Body is Capable of Self Healing and Maintenance
The medical profession recognise that the body works towards self-healing and maintenance and call it homeostsis Homeo means same, and stasis means static. So the body is trying to keep itself in a similar state and in a fairly stable point of functioning. Think for example of a scab being formed or a bone healing after a fracture.
From a musculoskeletal point of view this is similar. The body works to stay level through the eyes and ears and is constantly monitoring this and adjusting muscle tension. The body is also working to maintain normal function through the digestive, immune, neural and hormonal systems..
Structure and function are reciprocally interrelated
Part of the body that is functioning differently will then form a different structure. For example, a muscle that is being exercised more grows in size. This is the same for nerves which grow and conduct better when they are being used frequently. Bones will also change shape from the way they are being used, laying down more calcium to make the bone denser if it is being exercised with weight bearing.
In the opposite manner these body parts will shrink if they aren’t being used much. The muscle wastage that occurs after your arm or leg has been in a cast is a great example of this.
From a treatment perspective this is useful to us firstly in trying to keep everything functioning well so the structure doesn’t change, but it also informs us that things aren’t functioning correctly if the structure has changed shape.
Rational treatment is based on these principles above
We are consider the 3 principles when formulating our treatment.
So How is Osteopathy Different to Physiotherapy and Chiropractic?
This is absolutely one of our most frequently asked questions. Essentially all three modalities are manual (hands on) therapies, and we are all primary health care practitioners and are able to send you for further testing if needed.
The main difference is in our philosophy. As we are not trained in the other disciplines we have used mainly research to present them as well as we can here, but if you’d like more information about one of the other modalities it would be better to speak with someone trained in that discipline directly.
A physiotherapist’s goal is to restore, maintain, and maximize your mobility, strength, function, and overall well-being. In this they sound somewhat similar to what has been outlined above but most patients who have seen both modalities will tell you that they are quite different. Physiotherapists commonly use stretching, massage and strengthening exercises in their approach.
Osteopaths may use those techniques, or manipulation or more indirect balancing techniques to increase mobility and improve strength and function.
Chiropractors are generally known for their use of manipulation of the spine. Their principles centre around problems with the spine which they term “subluxations”. They believe that when the spine isn’t working correctly that the nerves can not then function properly and this can cause other problems throughout the body.
In contrast to the osteopathic philosophy, chiropractors may not necessarily think it’s important to treat a muscle. Osteopaths however will work with the joints and muscles other than the spine when considering how to best treat you for you complaint.